The Stirring Faith Blog

Aim for What Endures

aim for what endures

We are in the heart of Hey There, Girlfriend: Finding Courage for Friendship. It’s Day 4 and today we are focusing on our aim. You and I can actually point our own actions and responses toward what endures. Think about the relationships you have experienced. You, too, may have bundled up past hurts because of soured sisterhoods. Emotions linger, often wrecking our courage to try again. We wonder why we should strive for friendships only to be hurt and disappointed again.

Paul offers sound counsel for how to navigate this emotional obstacle in his final closing statements to Timothy. Paul gives personal instructions. He notes where people have gone, who has remained, and which people to stay away from. He even requests his cloak (2 Timothy 4:10-15). Woven among these personal details lives the best advice for aiming toward what endures.

“At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them,” 2 Timothy 4:16

In the middle of the hurt and disappointment, Paul communicates a tremendous amount of Christ-likeness to be embraced.

What? Where was Luke? Where were his friends? Why on Earth was Paul alone? This is an opportunity to wallow in disappointment and suffering, but Paul does not. Instead, he points Timothy to God’s ability to meet his needs when all humanity fails.

“But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth,” 2 Timothy 4:17

Paul wants Timothy, along with the reader, to know people are going to disappoint us in tremendous ways. Sometimes those we think should show up for us will not. They will make choices we would not. It’s possible that those closest to you will be insensitive, acting in ways you find unconscionable. You, too, might experience heartache from good friends or family.

Godly people.

Paul demonstrates to us how to aim toward what endures.

As if sharing wisdom in relationship dealings toward Timothy for the future, Paul writes, may it not be charged against them. In other words, these people are still our friends. It’s going to hurt when it happens, but don’t hold it against them.

Chances are, you and I have let some people down, too. There may have been times we couldn’t be there, or we didn’t see the event as important as they did.

May it not be charged against us.

Courage calls us to aim toward handling our relationships like Paul. Loving when it’s hard –

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity Proverbs 17:17 ESV

Forgiving when it hurts:

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13 NIV

May we not charge it against them.

To return to the beginning of this plan, use this link.

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God is For Your Good

for yur good

Day 3 of Hey There, Girlfriend, a 5-day reading plan for finding courage for friendship, is upon us. And Don’t forget, you can also find this plan available on the YouVersion app. Together, we are looking into the Word of God to discern a biblical model for friendship. In today’s reading, we will shine light onto a truth we often forget: God is for your good –even in healing hurts created by those you let in close and giving you reliable and lasting relationships.

I know this one from experience. Years ago, my husband and I packed our family into a moving truck, sold the house, and left no forwarding address. We showed up at the new location with bright smiles in our attempt to leave the pain behind. Inside, we remained battered and bruised emotionally because of deep relational hurts we packed up along with our furniture.

Still, God was working. We found ourselves drawn to a couple at church. She knew everyone, having lived in that town all her life, sporting inner and outer beauty and sophistication. He was a coach, and the understated, but hilarious life of the party. A sweet relationship developed in time, and I have never been more thankful.

After we had been friends for a long time, I found the courage to ask how they had room for us. Our need was obvious. Friendless, broken, and desperate for relationships defined us. Why did they befriend us?

Tears flowed from my put-together friend. She never explained the tears, but I realized they simply needed us at just the time we needed them.

Learning God is For Your Good

Experience has taught me that when I am feeling alone, and need a friend, I am most likely not the only one. God is working in someone’s life who needs a friend as well. This is the juncture at which we find Philippians 4:18 at work.

“And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

Most adults have room for a new friend. We are not alone in our sense of isolation and friendlessness. Rich, true, and loyal friendships require that we believe God is preparing just the right friends for us; people who will like who we are, love us despite it, and even need us because of who we are.

Good and lasting friendships bloom when you and I are “mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Romans 1:11-12).

I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. Romans 1:11-12

Therefore, these relationships transcend decades, seasons of life, or favorite pass times. Forget selecting people who are like you, or even your same age. Some of the dearest friends God has ordained for you may be thirty years older than you, or the same number of years younger.

Remember, you are not alone in your loneliness.

Ask God to prepare your future friends as He prepares you to be women who mutually encourage each other’s faith as you experience life together.

Meet you tomorrow for Day 4. (If you would like to go back to the first day, click this link: Day 1.)

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Together is God’s Idea

 

together is god's idea

Welcome to Day 2 of Hey There, Girlfriend, a 5-day reading plan for finding courage for friendship. This plan is also available on the YouVersion app. Together, we are looking into the Word of God to discern a biblical model for friendship. And together is exactly where we land today. Yearning for companionship to share our joys, our passions, our pain, and even the mundane is not something that catches God unaware. Together is His idea.

Alone is where we find ourselves sometimes. It might be because of a job change, relocation, or school. Maybe you’ve experienced loss, suddenly finding yourself drowning in emptiness. You and I can even be alone in a crowd. Just because people are around doesn’t inoculate you from feeling isolated. Yes, alone is a familiar place for many, but alone is not how God intends for us to experience life.

Before sin entered the world, God announces the one thing in all of creation that is not good (Genesis 2:18).

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him. Genesis 2:18

We see this need met primarily through marriage, but the effects of loneliness and social isolation span across relationships. Ecclesiastes expounds upon this need by professing two are better than one, and three are even better (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12).

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12

The Bible echoes this sentiment by bringing rich examples like Ruth and Naomi (Ruth 1), Paul and Timothy (2 timothy 2:3-5), Elijah and Elisha (2 Kings 2:2-12), and Moses and Aaron (Exodus 4), to name a few.

Jonathan and David are another pair highlighted in Scripture. They were unlikely friends. Jonathan should have been hunting David down with more resolve than his father, but there was no hatred and no resentment, only solidarity. Why? While Scripture doesn’t day, it points to a need.

Directly after David defeats Goliath, with nothing more than some rocks and a sling, Jonathan identifies a kindred spirit. These two find common ground in their fervor and love for God, overriding any human dissent.

As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 2And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. 3Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. 4And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt. 1 Samuel 18:1-4

And when David is running for his life from Saul, Jonathan helps him find strength in the Lord (1 Samuel 23:16-17).

And Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God. 17And he said to him, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Saul my father also knows this.” 1 Samuel 23:16-17

Courageous Faith in Friendship

Both men exhibit courageous faith, one in initiating the relationship, the other in reciprocating it. Sincere love is shared between friends devoted to one another, honoring the other above themselves. This relationship illustrates the friendship God desires for His people (Romans 12:9-10).

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:9-10

The Gospel calls us into relationships, even those that seem unlikely. It’s His good plan that you and I experience the joy, the burdens, and the gift of loving beyond ourselves that come from friendships He ordains.

Maybe you need to pray, initiate a phone call, meet up with someone for lunch, or clear your schedule to be available for someone. Today, take one step toward leaving your habits of isolation, trusting God to provide for your needed friendships.

Meet you tomorrow for Day 3. (If you would like to go back to the first day, click this link: Day 1.)

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Start with What You Know

Hey there Girlfriend Days 1

Welcome to Day 1 of Hey There, Girlfriend: finding courage for friendship. I’m glad you are here and hope you will stick around for the five days. What I have learned in my adult years is that most of us could use a good friend. Many of us have been hurt by those we brought in close, and some of us have the emotional scars to prove it. Moving out to build relationships calls for risk. We are not even sure how to do it right. And because of all this, it is comforting to know that the Bible speaks to our very needs. The call, in our quest for deeper relationships with other women, is for courage. In Christ is where we will find it. The first step is to start with what you know.

Start with What You Know

Feeling isolated, lonely, or lacking in the friendship department? If so, you are in good company. In fact, the pandemic has only exacerbated the situation. Today, an alarming number of women feel they have no close friends; and if they have them, the relationships feel distant.

There can be many contributing factors causing your loneliness. The toll it takes makes us a more isolated people. Too often, you and I approach friendships in hesitation, timidity, and disappointment, weighed down with hordes of emotional baggage.

Our relationship baggage looms large because, frankly, this is not our first rodeo. We all survived middle school. Fear and experience override our faith. We stop believing God is for our good. You and I cope with our lack by dismissing our need of other people. Emotional walls stand tall for protection. We create insulators, like settling for digital relationships, because we are NOT allowing THAT to happen again. Failed friendships can leave open wounds and gaping holes in our hearts for sundry reasons we cannot fill.

How Starting with What We Know Affects Our Loneliness

Liberating our loneliness calls for a faith that believes God is for our good when all evidence is to the contrary (Psalm 34:8). Not only is He willing to meet our needs (Psalm 46:1), God is trustworthy with us in every circumstance (Deuteronomy 31:8). He also loves us despite ourselves (Romans 5:8), and sticks by our side closer than any human companion (Proverbs 18:24). In Christ, we have the best of intimacy, faithfulness, grace, comfort, and understanding, beyond what we deserve.

He, alone, sees you in your loneliness, your woundedness, and your need (Jeremiah 12:3). Just like the Psalmist, we can express how we feel and ask for His help.

Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Psalm 25:16

Courage for finding and experiencing the friendship for which we long begins with what we may already know. Jesus is the one who gets you. He stands with you when the rest of the world passes you by. Our initial move away from loneliness is to draw closer to Jesus. Believe and trust Him to provide the courage required to try again.

Start with what you know. Jesus knows how to provide for your deficits. You can rely on Him for your wholeness.

Scripture for Day 1: Start with What You Know

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Psalm 34:8

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth. Exodus 34:6

It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8

 

Meet you tomorrow for Day 2.

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The Journey Toward Waiting WellConquering Chaos

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A Prayer Against Distraction

cover against distraction

A Prayer Against Distraction

She Prays on Fridays

What’s your plan for the day? I’ll bet you are multitasking and fighting to get everything done on your “To Do” list. How’s that going? If you and I are anything alike, half the battle is me and my personal wanderings. I spend too much time fighting against distraction, landing in a wilderness—miles, and miles from where I intended to go.

The “what if’s,” “maybe I should,” “ooh, look at that,” “oh, I forgot about X,” cat videos and social media scrolling, creep in, seeping into my thoughts and my thumbs, turning my actions away from my original agenda, and often in an opposing direction.

I know you get it because current data supports my predicament. Researchers have found that 47% of our days are spent in this wilderness wandering. Apparently, this wandering is so common and natural that we don’t even realize it is happening.

This finding shouldn’t be surprising in light of John 10:10.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

How better for the enemy to steal our focus and attention, far from experiencing the life Jesus came to give, than to lead us into distraction before we realize it’s even happening?

If you and I desire, not only to become the most productive versions of ourselves but women who live in abundance through Christ, we need to do what is unnatural, spending our efforts working against distraction.

The Good News in our Battle Against Distraction

The good news is that we are not alone. This recent discovery by researchers is nothing new. We don’t have a discourse on the thinking behind David’s writing of Psalm 119, but we can deduce where his problem areas surfaced. He aggressively attacks the battle with thought and action.

  1. He recognizes the problem.
  2. Then he sees the solution in seeking hard after God.
  3. In that process, he prays –affirming his battle plan.

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. Psalm 119:15 ESV

But fixing his eyes and mind on God’s truth is not his only defense. Not only does David go on the offensive, he makes some defensive moves.

Turn my eyes from looking at what is worthless; give me life in your ways. Psalm 119:36

This one Psalm has found its way into my prayers regularly – for the sole reasons I expressed above. I can’t make good decisions without divine intervention. My deep need and depravity and longing for what seems natural – overpowers me and I lose.

Unless I do exactly what David models here.

How to Win Against Distraction

Recognize the problem

Attack the problem by doing what is not natural

Praying for God to enable me to be victorious in seeking Him over that which seeks to weaken me, shrink my reach, make me ineffective, and live a life absent of abundance.

I find Proverbs 4:25 to be helpful as I think and move and pray.

Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Proverbs 4:25

We could go on looking to other places in the Bible that illustrate this same fight – and hear from different people from various centuries who knew the battle well. From Job to the writers of Psalms, Solomon, Luke, Matthew, Peter, Paul, and the author of Hebrews, to name a few, the battle against distraction is as old as time and common to all peoples.

Today, let’s advance toward abundant life in Jesus through prayer – to help us do what we cannot and experience what we might miss otherwise.

A Prayer Against Distractions

Against Distraction pinLord,

I am so thankful for your timeless Word that meets us in our culture, our circumstances, and our need. Today I pray over my friend what I, myself need. Help her to recognize her need to move away from distraction and toward You. And as she does, make her away of what is stealing her attention and affection from you. If it’s too much on her agenda, give her the wisdom to know what NOT to do.

When her mind wanders into the wilderness of wastefulness, help her see how and when it’s happening. Instead, draw her focus to your word. Make it clear, easy to understand, and enable her to embrace what you give over every natural inclination that beds down in her heart. Show her how to meditate on you and what it means to fix her eyes on you. And at the same time, turn her attention away from all that will not last. Supernaturally enable her to look directly forward, and gaze on you and the eternal purposes you have planned. Give her life in your ways, and nothing less.

Thank you for transforming her thought life to experience the abundance that lies in you.

In the glorious and unmatched name of Jesus.

Amen

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Times of testing